Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Ever You Say Bubba

Sometimes things happen that are so bizzare that you can't believe they are happening, even right when they are happening. Joe and I look at each other at such times to verify that 1) we are awake 2) we are not delusional 3) the cosmos is not playing a practical joke. For those fellow travelers who are about to enter the 'hub from hell' known as Chicago O'Hare ... be thee warned.

We arrive from San Francisco and have ordered a pusher to get us to the gate for the flight to Buffalo. We had flown in and out of Buffalo because it was hundreds of dollars cheaper than the direct flight from Toronto and we do what we can to keep costs down for organizers who bring me in to speak. I was very careful in ordering a 'pusher' not a 'wheelchair' because on our way through to San Francisco we got a pusher who was pissed off that I was in my own wheelchair because he had brought a wheelchair and 'people with their own wheelchairs shouldn't need help' he told me. He so didn't want to help us that his anger was almost fearsome. That we had to take help from him was diminishing. All the way he explained that I had to make sure that I got a 'pusher' not a 'wheelchair', I explained once that I make that clear when I make a reservation, when I check in and when I get on the plane, what happens with that information is out of my control. Then I just sat there and waited to arrive.

So when checking in we begged the woman at the gate in San Francisco to get the correct information into the system so that we didn't have to relive the ordeal at the airport. When we arrive in Chicago we have neither pusher or a twitching, angry staff with a wheelchair. We have no one. A customer service guy comes over and chats with us, says he will call. I tell him to ask for a PUSHER and explain why. He says he'll make it clear. He comes back to tell me that they had me scheduled for a cart but the cart was full so it didn't come. Um, OK, that makes no sense at all.

The pusher arrives with a wheelchair. Now the pusher is saying that he won't push me unless I get in his wheelchair. He keeps pointing to the weight capacity of the wheelchair which is boldly printed on the side showing me that it will carry me. I could see by the shape of the wheelchair that I would have difficulty getting in and it would be impossible for me to get out. I tell him that I am already in a chair and want to travel in my chair. He refuses. Disabled people have to go in approved chairs. I tell him my chair is approved and it's my chair. He refuses and says " let me explain the benefits of this chair" and then does. I say, "it's a chair that only able bodied people could easily get on and off of, I am not able bodied, and ..." I point out, "I am in a wheelchair already."

He looks at me with exasperation and says that he will not push me in my chair that if I want assistance I must get out of my chair and transer into his. At this point the customer service guy comes over and tries to intervene on my behalf. I suggest we put my luggage on that chair, pusher guy can push my luggage and Joe can push me. The only reason we need help is because we've got the carry on and Joe can't push me and take the luggage at the same time. The pusher guy doesn't want to put my luggage on his chair. Customer service intervenes and my luggage is loaded onto the chair.

At the elevator as we wait, he explains to me the benefits on his chair. Joe says, thankfully because I'm tired of the whole thing, 'Sir, I would have trouble getting in and out of that chair.' Then he explains how people get in the chair, now I know I simply couldn't do it, but say nothing because really, what is there to say?

We arrive at the gate and now how a couple of hours to wait and several other interactions of such common nastiness that it feels petty to even document.

Travel is for the hearty, I'll tell you, because without a sense of self and a sense of humour one's sense of outrage could cause calamity. And I'll say this for that guy and for 3 other people who I dealt with on the trip home. You should go home and thank God that I have a tremendous fear of jail time, or right now, you'd be dead and Bubba in the next cell would have claimed me as his bitch.


Anonymous said...

Some days I read your blog and can't imagine how you have the amount of patience that you do..... I still shutter when ever I recall your experiences last year with the security guard and your luggage.......


Kristin said...

Truly Dave, I am amazed at your patience. And, I am very glad you have a fear of jail time because I would really miss your blog if you were stuck behind bars (but I totally agree that those asshats deserve a major smackdown).

Stephanie said...

Amen Kristin! Joe should have offered to make him dependednt on said wheelchair in the elevator - then told him to wait for a pusher......;) Just kidding, but really! I'll bet this guy probably looked like he was 12 too - they all do anymore. Guess I'm getting old.

Glad you are back home safely.

ivanova said...

Wow, what a hair-raisingly awful experience. That just sucks.

Destinee Dale said...

i am sorry your travel was so horrific. Please know that your presence in Red Bluff and Sacramento was valued and appreciated by us all. I so enjoyed meeting the both of you and felt inspired and enlightening each time you spoke to us.

Laurie said...

Sending you and Joe a hug. I hope you have a better day tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

The Wheeliecrone says -
I often wonder how people who believe they have no disabilities (let's leave aside whether or not their disability is terminal stupidity) believe they know so much more about my body and what it will do than I know. Because I have only been using this body and its appertenances for 71 years, after all! How would I know whether I can stand or transfer or use my shoulders, or whatever!

Anonymous said...

For a very long time my daughter was unable to get out of the house with a wheelchair -- so now I am on a crusade. Every time I'm in a restroom that is now ADA compliant I make a bloody nuisance of myself. I have discovered that until these people have to spend 48 hours with their lower limbs strapped together they aren't going to get it.

Maybe that would improve the disposition of the "pusher"

Anonymous said...

That is beyond disgusting. Aside from the ignorance and offensive remarks... it's just bad customer service and should not be acceptable in any service industry. The sad thing is, this schmuck probably thinks he is following some kind of regulations. Things need to change from the top down.

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